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Cambodia to hold River Festival to attract tourists

Last Updated on 11 January 2013 By Rann Reuy

Tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the rare Irrawaddy dolphin prepare to board a boat before heading out on a group tour on the Mekong River in Kratie province. Photograph: Hector Bermejo/Phnom Penh Post THE Ministry of Tourism plans to organise an annual River Festival along the Mekong and Tonle Sap in a move to attract tourists, officials said. Additionally, it wants to raise awareness for environmental protection with a Clean City Day on February 27. The Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said on Tuesday that the purpose of the River Festival is to enhance the tourism appeal of the hosting provinces and improve infrastructure. He said, above all, the purpose is to promote the preservation of biodiversity and natural resources. The concept of the River Festival is to promote the preservation of biodiversity and natural resources in those areas and to strengthen the wide range of tourism services, the minister said. The first River Festival will take place this year in Kratie province, the home of the Mekongs freshwater dolphins, to support nearby eco-tourism sites.

However, the exact date of the festival has yet to be determined, because preparations are in their early stages, according to Thong Khon. Though he said it would be easier celebrating it in the dry season around the years end. Our government permitted it already, and we want to celebrate it first in the northeastern provinces, he said, adding that provinces along the Mekong will organise events in the coming weeks. Som Sun, owner of the tour operator Mekong Heritage, approved of the ministrys initiative, but mentioned officials should further strengthen the quality of tourism in hospitality and service. She added some hotels would have three or four stars, but offer poor hospitality. Sometimes, their staff are careless when the guests arrive, she said. The model for the new festival will be the Sea Festival in late 2011 in Preah Sihanouk province that was held after the Cambodian beach was listed on the Paris-based Most Beautiful Bays Club. About 50,000 local and international tourists joined the event, the Post reported at the time. However, according to Thong Khon the River Festival will be not as big at the beginning. He also said that the Ministry of Tourism plans to launch Clean City Day on February 27, in conjuction with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Tourism Ministers meeting in Laos, to promote awareness of the importance of environmental protection. The ASEAN ministers will look to approve ASEAN Clean City Standards. The [Clean City Standards] will be approved during the meeting [of the ASEAN Tourism Ministers] in Vientiane on January 21, technical experts already confirmed the standards, he said. He added that it is based on a draft version offered by Cambodia. Thong Khon said that Cambodia had drafted a Clean City standard consisting of seven main criteria and 33 sub-criteria. The criteria address such concerns as environmental arrangement and management, cleanness, waste management, awareness raising, green spaces, health safety, security and urban planning as well as tourism infrastructure and facilities.